Beset by injuries from the very start of the season, the Hornets enter tonight's game at New Orleans Arena against the Southwest Division-leading Spurs with an 8-25 record that has them at the very bottom of the Western Conference standings.

How does a Spurs team with the third-best record in the NBA summon what their coach calls the appropriate fear required to approach such a game with focus and intensity?

For Gregg Popovich, the solution requires his players to watch video of the tense final minutes of the first two games they played against the Hornets this season.

"Every time we play them it seems like it's a two-point game or a four-point game," Popovich said. "They just never stop. They keep coming at you so you've got to keep your focus."

The Spurs encountered the Hornets' resolve on opening night, when they needed late-game heroics from Spurs captain Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to pull out a 99-95 victory.

Six weeks later, they had to stave off a fourth-quarter rally by the Hornets to secure a 99-94 win at the AT&T Center.

New Orleans coach Monty Williams, a former Spurs player who cut his coaching teeth as an intern under Popovich in 2004-05, has kept his team competitive despite a series of injuries to key players and a discouraging 11-game losing streak. Sixteen of the Hornets' 25 losses have been by nine or fewer points. Seven have been by five or fewer, including the two losses to San Antonio. Three losses came in overtime.

Rookie forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, has missed 13 games with a stress reaction in his left ankle after a preseason that gave rise to comparisons to a young Duncan.

A nagging knee injury kept high-priced shooting guard Eric Gordon out of the lineup until Dec. 29, but he has played three of the last four games, making his first start of the season Saturday night in Dallas.

Gordon scored 14 points in Dallas, including a game-winning three-point play in a road victory the Spurs cited as a reason they need to heed Popovich's admonition and bring appropriate fear to tonight's contest.